Annabelle Collins facing welcome Olympic Games dilemma
Anabelle Collins could be faced with the prospect of a welcome dilemma ahead of the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo next summer.
Having already qualified for Tokyo on her mount Joyero VG by claiming one of the region's four spots up for grabs, finishing second on points behind Yvonne Muñiz, of the Dominican Republic, the Bermudian dressage rider now has the opportunity to qualify two further horses.
As well as her own mare Wonder, Collins, who will become only the second Bermudian to compete in dressage at the Olympics after Suzanne Dunkley, who represented the island in Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996, has recently been given talented Grand Prix horse Chuppy Checker CL as a third option by Rob van Puijenbroek.
“I could be in a position of having three top level and be forced to make a tough decision of which one to choose,” said Collins.
“I’m really fortunate to have the possibility of maybe having three Grand Prix level horses. Not everyone will have an opportunity like that and I’ve certainly been in a situation like this.
“I still have to qualify the other two horses but there are a lot of competitions to do in the next six months. “Both have regularly scored above the required score and so I know it’s in my hands, it’s just up to to get it done.
“Obviously it would be fantastic to be able to qualify all three but if I can’t I know I’ve got Joyero there already qualified for Tokyo.”
Should Collins achieve the required benchmark of scoring at least 66 per cent from all judges in two different events as well as from one Olympic judge, the 42-year-old will find herself with a tough decision to make ahead of riding out on sport’s biggest stage.
“Joyero will always be my favourite because he’s been amazing for me, however Chuppy has so much quality and has proved his pedigree at some big events,” said Collins, who realised her long-held dream of reaching the pinnacle of her sport, having narrowly missed out on qualifying for the London Games in 2012.
“The only issue with Chuppy is that I don’t know quite how quickly we will click, it could take months. However, I’m extremely fortunate to have been given this horse and it’s a bit of honour to have him ahead of the Olympics.
“The process is very different with every horse and it’s all about how you adjust your training systems to see which works best.
“For instance I’ve had Joyero since he was three and so we have a really strong bond and it’s been a lovely experience with him.
“There’s no doubting Chuppy’s talent but he also has a lot of personality and a lot of power. In dressage it is all about trust and so it’s a case of needing him to relax a little and not push too hard. I have to find a way of controlling that power; it’s a fine balance.”
Collins has good reason in considering her potential Olympic mount carefully, with the vital connection between rider and horse outweighing anything else.
“At the Olympics it will all be about the bond you have with the horse,” she added. “That’s because riding out in a big stadium can be an overwhelming situation not just for the athlete but for a horse as well.
“If things do work out it is an exceptional moment and a really special experience for the rider and horse. However that vital connection has to be there.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on much of the year’s sporting calendar including the Olympic and Paralympic Games which were due to be held from July 24 to August 9, and from August 25 to September 6 respectively.
However, while the majority of athletes have been left to rue the delay until “no later than next summer”, Collins is taking the advantage of the extra time to strengthen that imperative bond with her horses.
“I’m really proud to have qualified and it will be incredible to go an Olympics and represent Bermuda when the time comes,” she added.
“However, with the delay I’ve just been keeping my head down and working hard. I feel lucky to be in a situation to be able to do something I love every day, it’s a pleasure for me.
“In that sense the delay hasn’t been too bad for me. I have the chance to work with the horses and try and strengthen those relationships. I have the opportunity to focus on the horses and I’ve already seen the benefits through their improvements.”